The gunman who shot and killed 12 people inside a packed Aurora, Colo., movie theater in 2012 was formally sentenced Wednesday morning to life in prison without parole.

In July, a jury found James Holmes guilty on each of the 165 charges he faced in the case, unanimously rejecting an argument made by his attorneys that he was not guilty by reason of insanity. But last month, the same jury said he should be sentenced to life imprisonment rather than death by lethal injection, a surprising decision considering that jurors had declined earlier opportunities to spare him a death sentence.

District Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. announced the sentence at a hearing Wednesday, ending a grueling, emotional trial that had stretched out for much of this year. As Samour had told the jurors before they deliberated on Holmes’s punishment, he was required to sentence the gunman to life in prison without parole if the jurors could not reach a unanimous decision.

But during Wednesday’s hearing, Samour made clear that he still wanted to give Holmes the most severe punishment allowed to him under the law to make it clear that Holmes will “never set foot in free society again.”

“The defendant does not deserve any sympathy,” Samour said.

After announcing that Holmes was sentenced to life in prison, Samour continued to add years to the total. Ultimately, Holmes was given 12 consecutive life sentences, one for each person he killed in the shooting, as well as 3,318 additional years for the other counts stemming from the attack.

“The intention of my sentences is that he spend every single day of the rest of his life in prison, and that he be imprisoned without the possibility of parole,” Samour said from the bench, while Holmes stood before him. “If there was ever a case that warranted the maximum sentences, this is the case.”

When he was finished reading out the sentences, Samour asked that the sheriff “get the defendant out of my courtroom, please,” prompting cheers and applause from the room as Holmes was taken away.

Holmes was spared the death penalty after one juror said they would not sentence him to death, according to George Brauchler, the prosecutor, and one of the other jurors in the case.

The gunman had not denied that he carried out one of the worst mass shootings in American history. His attorneys had said in a filing that he “was in the throes of a psychotic episode when he committed the acts that resulted in the tragic loss of life and injuries sustained by moviegoers on July 20, 2012.”

Moviegoers were watching a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, a suburb of Denver, when a lone gunman began firing into the crowd. Holmes calmly and silently marched through the theater, witnesses said, firing at adults and children alike.

Prosecutors had argued that Holmes meticulously planned the crime and was focused on carrying out a mass murder, while attorneys from the Colorado State Public Defender said he was removed from reality and had lost his mind to psychosis.

Death sentences are rare in Colorado. The state has sentenced 22 people to death between 1973 and 2013, according to federal figures.

Holmes will now be kept in custody for the remainder of his natural life, which avoids the lengthy process of appeals that would accompany a death sentence. Death row inmates nationwide have spent an average of 14 years under their sentences, and the Colorado Department of Corrections notes that due to appeals, inmates will spend at least a decade on death row.

People in Colorado said by a nearly two-to-one margin that they wanted Holmes to be sentenced to death, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released last month. While 63 percent of voters supported a death sentence, 32 percent favored imprisonment.

Holmes’s parents had pleaded for their son’s life before the trial began, saying that while people viewed their son as a monster, he was instead a man gripped by mental illness.


This post has been updated.